Once thought to have been on the path to becoming a democratic, capitalist state, Russia remains a preeminent global challenge to the United States. Every American president has entered office committed to resetting relations with Russia only for the relationship to become more acrimonious. Today, relations may be at their lowest point in nearly four decades. Thirty years after the end of the Cold War and two decades into Vladimir Putin’s reign, Washington seems to have finally realized that the Russian challenge is enduring. What is the nature of the Russian challenge to the United States? What are Russia’s objectives, strengths, and weaknesses? In a competition that spans Europe, the Middle East, and even America’s homeland, what do we need to understand about Russia in order to achieve our own objectives? Fellows will learn about the history of U.S.-Russian relations, the nature of the Russian political regime, the role of oil, Russian military and nuclear doctrine and developments, and the current status of relations.

Taught by leading scholars in the field, SSS will consist of 15 evening sessions that meet from September-May and will afford participating fellows an opportunity to gain a breadth of knowledge on critical subjects, forge relationships with senior scholars and practitioners, sharpen analytical frameworks through written and oral arguments, and build a cohort with their peers. Through the lens of strategic competition with Russia, fellows will examine:

  • What are our goals and how do we achieve them?

  • What does the strategic competition look like? What are we competing over?

  • What do we need to understand about our adversary in order to achieve our goals?

Images from the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation (Image 1 | 2)

Eric Edelman on great-power competition

Preview the Syllabus by Week/Session




  1. We are in a competition with China, Iran, and Russia. We compete in order to win. What does winning the competition mean?
  2. What do we need to understand about ourselves in order to develop an appropriate strategy for competing with China, Iran, and Russia?
  3. What can we learn from our most recent great power competition with the Soviet Union that is relevant to our current competition?




  1. What was the Cold War?
  2. How did the Cold War end, and why did it end the way it did?
  3. What was the role of the United States in the endgame of the Cold War?

In the case of each question above, analyze how Kennan, Kissinger, Fukuyama and Kotkin would answer respectively. Who offers the most persuasive analytic response and why?




  1. Were there limits, geographic and/or ideological, to the Western victory in the Cold War?
  2. Did we learn the wrong lessons from 1989 (and, more broadly, from the end of the Cold War)?




  1. What factors may have accounted for the transformation of the Putin regime’s foreign and domestic policies in 2012–2014?
  2. Traditionally, variables that determine state behavior are divided into two categories: exogenous variables (competition with other states, battles for resources, external threats) and endogenous variables (the nature of the regimes, the aspirations of their leaders, regime ideology). Although this taxonomy is a simplification, based on the reading materials assigned, which theory helps explain more of Putin’s foreign policy?
  3. As Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council, you are writing a memo to the President on Russia’s options in the Belorussian crisis. Based on the assigned readings, what scenarios would you suggest and which one would you advise the President to consider the likeliest?




  1. What kind of nuclear balance is most conducive to stability?
  2. Does “nuclear superiority” matter?
  3. How useful are nuclear weapons for coercive diplomacy or compellence?
  4. How reliable is nuclear deterrence, particularly in a more multipolar nuclear world (i.e. with a growing Chinese nuclear force, diversifying forces in South Asia, and emerging nuclear power in North Korea and possibly Iran)?

About the Program

About the Security & Strategy Seminars

In partnership with the Alexander Hamilton Society and the Public Interest Fellowship, we are pleased to sponsor in-depth educational opportunities for public policy professionals in Washington, DC. Ideal candidates are 25- to 35-year old professionals working in national security and foreign policy institutions and organizations, such as government, academia, think-tanks, media, defense and intelligence communities, etc.

About the Alexander Hamilton Society

The Alexander Hamilton Society is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit, national organization that seeks to identify, educate, and launch young men and women into foreign policy and national security careers imbued with the Hamiltonian perspective of strong and principled American leadership in global affairs.

About the Public Interest Fellowship

The Public Interest Fellowship provides exceptional young men and women with professional opportunities and a continuing education in the tradition of freedom. The unique combination of work and study is designed to advance fellows’ pursuit of careers devoted to enriching the political and cultural life of the United States.

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